Veterans center at risk of being shut down

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SAN DIEGO -- A veterans community center in Linda Vista is at risk of being shut down for not having a wheelchair-accessible elevator to accommodate older and handicapped veterans.

The American Legion Community Center, built in 1972, does not meet current California handicap codes and must install an elevator.

The center is considered a second home for its nearly 400 members, said Marine veteran and Legion 1st Cmdr., John H. Priess.

“We have a special connection with each other and it’s a place we can come to and relate to each other,” Priess said. “To walk through this door, it's like walking back into the military and being amongst the people I served with in the Marine Corps."

The center is especially important to those members who suffer from PTSD and consider the Legion a place of therapy.

“People don’t feel like they belong in other places once they get out, and we feel like this is a home where we share our brotherhood,” said Sam Flores, a Marine veteran who fought in Afghanistan.

The center is completely self-funded, according to its members. Funds earned from bar sales at events and membership fees are barely enough to keep it afloat.

So far the Legion has saved $25,000 for the new elevator, but needs $50,000 to complete the project.

The Legion has received all the necessary permits from the city and is determined to get the center up to code by the end of the year to ensure it stays open.

“You know, we want to keep it open for the young veterans coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan...a place where veterans and active duty members can come and be amongst each other like they were back in the service,” Priess said.

Find more information on donating to the Legion here.